Will ‘state of the art’ Iwilei homeless center ever open?

Iwilei shelter 4

It has now been nearly two whole years since the mayor announced that the City and County of Honolulu had spent $6.3 million to buy an industrial building at 431 Kuwili Street in Iwilei that will be transformed into a new “state of the art” homeless services center.

Homelessness is still totally out of control in Honolulu and is worse than ever in some locations.

Is the center finally nearing completion?  Or at least partial completion?  Why the hell is it taking so long?  And why aren’t the people who are paying for it being kept properly informed?  Why do we have to wonder about a project of this magnitude, especially when the problems it is supposed to address are so critical?

Unfortunately, this project had the distinct odor of bullshit from the very beginning.

The purchase announcement came after the deal was done, while the mayor was in the heat of a re-election campaign, and included no timeline for completion.

After the hoopla died down and the mayor was re-elected, nothing more was said publicly for more than a year.  By then, the project had shifted from a drop-in center with services and some transitional housing into a medical center for the homeless.

And then it all went away once again.

It’s amazing how much time and energy the media can seemingly devote to homelessness without really keeping the public informed.  And it’s amazing how much taxpayer money the government can spend without being transparent about its plans or accomplishments.

So we don’t really know a whole lot about the project or its current status.  That’s just totally unacceptable.

But a quick internet search turned up a few clues that suggest at least part of the building may open any day now.

At least one presentation included an estimate for an April 2018 opening for the “hygiene” portion of the building, with the rest several months later.  That sounds like toilets, showers, laundry facilities, and such may open some day soon.

Iwilei timeline

Overall, the center is now supposed to be a grand “public-private partnership” involving trained medical personnel who will treat homeless people for a variety of ailments and help keep them from constantly flooding emergency rooms.

And that really sounds like a good thing.  Too many homeless people suffer from terrible untreated health problems, including severe addiction and mental health issues.  Besides the obvious human misery, these problems impact everyone else and cost the healthcare system millions of dollars each year.

So I really hope this project works out, because Honolulu really needs it.

I just wish our “leaders” could be a lot more open about their plans.  And a hell of a lot faster.  After all, the situation is supposed to be an emergency.

The full presentation is available here.

Coincidentally, the project is apparently scheduled to become fully operational just before a big health care conference comes to town early next year.

Additional information about the project is available here.  Unfortunately, it seems more aspirational than operational, and doesn’t include many specifics such as a detailed timeline.

It’s just amazing that the mayor and the media have made so little effort to keep the public informed about any of this even though we’re paying for it.




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